(Preface: Morocco is a closed country so in order to respect the security of some our friends I have to be a bit general about location and can’t share too many photos, if you would like more info please feel free to email me email@example.com).
I just returned from spending the weekend in Morocco and you know how sometimes you do something and you’re not really sure why you’re doing it or what you’re going to get from it but you know you should? Well, to be honest, that’s kind of how this weekend was. Don’t get me wrong, I was excited about going and knew that God was going to teach me some things and use me as well, I just wasn’t sure how. In fact, it wasn’t really until today that I feel like God started to open up why he wanted me to go. We went over because our friends working in the local church were having a prayer and worship weekend to celebrate what God was doing and to intercede for the country and the advancement of the Gospel. We had over 25 hours of prayer and worship in less than two days, so it was pretty intense, but it was such a blessing to take part in!
Sometimes when you go on trips like these it’s easy to get caught up in wanting to see the fruit of things or wanting to have some tangible result or story you can share with others. This happens a lot with short term missions and it’s not a bad thing. Who doesn’t want to see results? But the reality is sometimes you don’t see that many “results”, especially in a culture where you can’t freely share the Gospel. I didn’t expect it to, but today I really started to think a lot more about short term missions and what it actually means to obey Christ’s words when he said “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19). But in a bit of a different way than I normally do…
I think over the last year God has been searching my heart as to why I’m doing mission work. I would consider myself pretty experienced with short term missions and it’s interesting to look back over the last few years of going on/leading trips. The more I settle down in Spain the more the dust settles and I can start to see the lasting effects of my work. I can see both good and bad.
The good thing is that there are people all around the world I would consider family and that I know will be in my life for a long time. I try an stay updated with them and when they hurt I hurt, when they need something I try to give it. The bad thing is that sometimes it seems like for every person I’m supporting, there is another I can’t support. A lot of times I’ll come back home to a Facebook message or email from someone I spent time with asking me when I’m returning or if I can help them financially. Most of the time I can’t, and while I don’t regret anything I’ve done, sometimes I do wonder how valuable my time in certain places was or if my inability to continue to give hope to someone outweighs the benefit of the hope I gave them in the first place. It’s not that one of them is more important, but I’ve learned that you have to choose where to invest yourself or you will burn out pretty quickly. I know it seems a bit heavy but I think it’s important to be a vulnerable in this area.
It is a bit strange going on a “mission trip” from Spain and not from the States. It doesn’t seem like it’s that far, but even though you can see the mountains of Morocco across the Mediterranean from my house and it’s only a ferry ride away, it is a very different culture. As we drove into the city on a Friday, which is the Muslim holy day, I saw thousands of people gathering outside of the local mosques and lining the streets and alley ways facing Mecca and praying. It quickly brought me back to a reality that I had seen many times before. Honestly it was a bit overwhelming and I couldn’t help but ask myself, “what difference am I actually making here?” After all, I was just coming to pray and worship…right? And even though I’d like to admit that I always confidently walk into a place knowing how my prayers and worship claim victories in the spirit realm, it’s sometimes hard to see.
Moments like these where you realize the work that needs to be done will take more time than you have and require more resources than you can give are important to experience because they challenge the instant gratification Christianity that many of us have been brought up in. (I think the fact that I only had two days to be there made this come to light even more!) I’m very thankful God has given me these moments because it’s possible to serve around the world or go on mission trips and never have them especially if the whole trip is a planned controlled environment like they many times are.
Even though I wasn’t sure about why I was going to Morocco and the work at hand felt incredibly overwhelming, the one reason I was confident in going was because I know I was investing in family. People that I would have long relationships with. People that would continue to love and support me as I would them regardless of what I had to give or what I expected to receive. It’s crazy how the pressure to see things happen or the desire to have to show others what you are accomplishing fades away when you bring family to the forefront and even crazier how much more you realize you are accomplishing when you look at it this way. It’s humbling to realize that while you may not see results, results was never the point. Being the body of Christ and loving and supporting the people who will see the results is just as important.
I have long known that short term missions is an important role for the church to play but have many times questioned if it actually answers Christ’s call to “Go make disciples of all nations” like we many times claim it does. The truth is that this takes time and the only disciples I have seen made from short term trips are from people feeling called to return and invest full time somewhere they had been. In reality, I think short term mission work’s greatest is purpose is not to answer the Great Commission but to encourage and support those who have answered it. It is so beautiful to see how taking the time to go away from home to encourage the body always encourages the body back home. The guys we just got through visiting in Morocco are coming to visit us in Malaga at the end of the year and I can’t wait for the encouragements they will bring. Being in a family like this is such an incredible way to see Christ’s Great Commission fulfilled both in “Jerusalem and to the ends of the earth.”
The longer I live as a full time missionary in Spain the more I see how the Great Commission is less of a job or calling and more of a basic lifestyle. Lately I’ve been dreaming about organizing more short term trips throughout Europe with Burn 24/7 and it’s so exciting to live in the reality knowing that all God requires is for me to love my family and trust that he will fulfill his commission through the people I support regardless of what I see or gain. What a great definition for short term missions and what a rewarding role for the body of Christ.
this is really great Allan, and encouraging. xx
Awesome brother!! Miss and love you!! Some day maybe I’ll get to work alongside you in Europe…eh??
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